N’awlins is famous for it’s Cajon and Creole seasonings that are eaten by those born and bred for almost every meal, and on pretty much everything!
So what’s the difference between the them?
Cajun and Creole are two distinct cultures, and while over the years they continue to blend, there is still a vast distinction. An over-simplified way to describe the two cuisines is to deem Creole cuisine “city food” and Cajun cuisine “country food.” While many of the ingredients in Cajun and Creole dishes are similar, the real difference between the two styles is the people behind these famous cuisines. They say in order to really know someone, meet their family. The same goes for food. The best place to find authentic Cajun and Creole cooking is in homes across the state.
Luckily for us, many of these superstar home cookers decided decades ago to take their talent to the public table and open up restaurants and cafes.
The word Cajun originates from the term les Acadians, used to describe French colonists who settled in the Acadia region of Canada, consisting of present-day New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. With the British conquest of Acadia in the early 1700s, the Acadians were forcibly removed from their homes in what become known as “Le Grand Dérangement,” or the Great Upheaval. Many Acadians eventually settled in the swampy region of Louisiana, today known as Acadiana.
The Acadians were an extremely resourceful people who took full advantage of the flatlands, bayous, and wild game of South Louisiana and its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico to create a truly unique local cuisine. While many Acadiana residents today have German, French, or Italian roots, among others, their way of life is strongly influenced by the Cajun culture. Along with its food, this rural area of Louisiana is famous for its Cajun French music and language.
Without access to modern-day luxuries like refrigerators, the Cajuns learned to make use of every part of a slaughtered animal. When a pig is butchered, the event is called a boucherie. Boudin, a type of Cajun sausage which consists of pork meat, rice, and seasoning stuffed into a casing, also commonly contains pig liver for a little extra flavour. Tasso and Andouille are two other Cajun pork products that use salts and smoke as preservatives. Cajun food is famous for being well seasoned, which is sometimes misunderstood as spicy. Seasoning is one of the most important parts of Cajun cooking, and that comes from much more than a heavy helping of cayenne pepper. Most dishes begin with a medley of vegetables based on the French mirepoix. “The holy trinity of Cajun cuisine” utilizes onion, celery, and bell pepper (rather than carrots) to provide a flavour base for many dishes. Garlic is never far away from any stove, either. Paprika, thyme, filé (ground sassafras leaves), parsley, and green onions are also very common ingredients in Cajun kitchens.
For the Cajun Seasoning, you combine nothing more difficult that some salt, oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper and paprika.
The term Creole describes the population of people who were born to settlers in French colonial Louisiana, specifically in New Orleans. In the 18th century, Creoles consisted of the descendants of the French and Spanish upper-class that ruled the city. Over the years the term grew to include native-born slaves of African descent, as well as free people of colour. Typically, the term French Creole described someone of European ancestry born in the colony, and the term Louisiana Creole described someone of mixed racial ancestry.
Like the people, Creole food is a blend of the various cultures of New Orleans, including Italian, Spanish, African, German, Caribbean, Native American, and Portuguese, to name a few. Creole cuisine is thought of as a little higher-brow or aristocratic when compared to Cajun. Traditionally, slaves in the kitchens of well-to-do members of society prepared the food, and with an abundance of time and resources, their dishes offered an array of spices from various regions, and creamy soups and sauces. A remoulade sauce, for example, which consists of nearly a dozen ingredients, would not typically be found in Cajun kitchens. Creole cuisine has more variety, because of the easier access Creoles had to exotic ingredients and the wide mix of cultures that contributed to the cuisine. That’s why you find tomatoes in Creole jambalaya and not in Cajun jambalaya, or why you often find a Creole roux made with butter and flour, while a Cajun roux is made with oil and flour.
For the Creole seasoning – there are a few more ingredients. Salt, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, sweet basil, thyme, black pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, celery seed and paprika.
At Soul Cartel Canberra we use these two authentic flavours in each of our menu items and sauces, creating an un-forgettable experience that’ll have you on the next flight to N’awlins, or back for dinner. We hope it’s the latter!